The Claremont Colleges interviewed three candidates this month for the new Director of the Bernard Field Station (BFS), the 75-acre coastal sage scrub habitat just north of Foothill Boulevard. The BFS’s habitat features a number of endangered plant and animal species and is used extensively for research, teaching and community tours.
The previous manager of the BFS for ten years, Stephen Dreher, was fired in fall 2010 due to “issues with recent use of the Field Station,” said a Claremont University Consortium (CUC) notice at that time. The firing raised controversy among some students who felt that the consortium was not acting in the best interests of the BFS.
The new director will oversee the day-to-day operations of the field station and work with the colleges’ Faculty Advisory Committee to develop academic programs, as well as having teaching responsibilities in the Pomona College Biology Department. The new position will be full time, five days a week, whereas the current Interim Manager, Jennifer Gee, works part-time.
The third and final candidate visited campus last week, when he talked with faculty and students and gave a lecture titled “Understanding predator–prey interactions is critical to preserving biodiversity.”
“The committee expects to make a candidate an offer sometime in the next couple of weeks,” said Pitzer Environmental Analysis (EA) Professor Paul Faulstich, who is on the committee and makes extensive use of the BFS in his own courses.
The new director will also be cooperating with the founding faculty director of Pitzer’s new Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability (CSCS), which will be a center at the BFS dedicated to the teaching and study of environmental sustainability and design, announced last spring.
The new faculty director will be a tenure-track position at Pitzer, coinciding with the creation of a new EA track focusing on “Sustainability and the Built Environment.”
The BFS has been the subject of controversy over the last decade as students and community members have protested development plans. In 2001, students barricaded the entrance to the CUC’s business building to protest proposed development.
In 2009, HMC’s proposal for a “green parking lot” on the west side of the BFS sparked an outcry from Students for the BFS (SBFS), a student group at the Claremont Colleges dedicated to the preservation of the field station. Last summer, an announcement that the CUC was selling part of the BFS land to Pitzer, Scripps and Harvey Mudd led to concerns that the individual colleges would use the land for development.
However, Lindon Pronto PZ ’11, a prominent and long-time member of SBFS, said that he thinks things are moving in the right direction.
“Pitzer taking this strong step forward [with the conservancy] is, in a sense, the closest thing to saving the field station as we’ve ever seen,” he said. “But the concerns for developing on the field station are far from over, in terms of how we’re going to move forward and still protect the integrity of the ecological space there.”
“The next challenge is how to maintain the integrity of the field station, and to do it in such a way that you’re maintaining the purpose of the field station,” Pronto said.